Having turned 71 in April, I’ve been a “normal” eater for more than half my life. I also know a lot about what causes dysregulated eating and what turns it around. My knowledge is scattered in the writings of my books and blogs. Here are seven simple (but not always easy) success principles:
Stop focusing on weight-loss. There is simply no other way to become a “normal” eater. Said another way, it will not happen if you continue focusing on losing weight. You can wish to lose it, but it can’t be “the” goal or something you often dwell on. Wanting good health is great. Couple it with a desire to be a “normal” eater and you’ve got the two most powerful forces to improve your relationship with food.
Don’t ever give up. You can give up for a few hours or days, but don’t let surrender drag into weeks. You must believe that if others can do it, you can too. You must use what they learned and can teach you and follow their advice. Sure you can tweak some of it to make it uniquely yours but, on the whole, you will need to follow in their footsteps.
Eat mindfully. You will not learn how to eat mindfully if you continue to eat while distracted. This means you’ll need to put aside whatever you usually do during eating. You can’t cheat. Eating mindfully involves all of the following: paying total attention to hunger, satisfaction and fullness, chewing a lot, letting food sit on your tongue, and eating v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. There is no other way to learn “normal” eating.
Learn life skills you’re missing. If you don’t have intimate people with whom to share your life, find some. It doesn’t matter that you’re shy or have had bad experiences trusting others. Try therapy to help you overcome your fears. Learn to play more and not be so busy, productive or perfectionistic. In excess, these are not healthy traits. Learn positive self-talk and how to self-soothe. These are musts for emotionally health.
Resolve old issues. You could be having trouble progressing because you’re dragging around old baggage. Get rid of it. The impact of trauma and abuse will not go away on their own. Neither will having been the child of parents with mental illness or addiction problems. No matter how successful you think you are, you need to heal old wounds to feed and nourish yourself more effectively in the present. Cutting corners won’t work.
Find meaning in life. If you’re sitting around all day (or most of many days) feeling bored and unfocused, you may be likely to drift toward food. It’s one of the reasons (but not the only one) that people do more mindless eating at night. No one can tell you what to do with your life, but I can tell you that endless watching of TV and engaging in social media isn’t going to help you eat more “normally.” For that you need a joyous reason to get up in the morning and to believe that your life has meaning. I’m not talking only about work. Passions and fun count equally.
Focus on self-care. Recognize that self-care is about everything that you do to enhance your life. It’s not having massages and going on cruises. It’s composed of each thing you do every day that makes your life either better or worse, more or less manageable, and increases or decreases your self-pride. Your goal is to engage in self-care 24/7/365. It’s okay to take care of others too. You just can’t do it regularly at the expense of yourself.